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Ex­tracted from: JAN the JOUR­NAL By Han­fred Rauch Pub­lished by: Jan Hen­drik Jour­nal (Pty) Ltd Avail­able on­line at www.jan­the­jour­ for R292.50 and at se­lect Wool­worths stores. © Jan Hen­drik Jour­nal (Pty) Ltd Page 139 - ‘These Streets’

Ire­mem­ber when Joburg was an end­less sprawl of M, N and R mo­tor­ways, linked by a com­plex net­work of thor­ough­fares named af­ter his­toric fig­ures from a by­gone era. For a stranger, which I was – an ide­al­is­tic young writer with no his­tory in this city and no dis­cern­able land­marks like a moun­tain or ocean to an­chor me – I found my­self, at times, lost.

It was a city built for the au­to­mo­bile, an in­ven­tion that, for all its in­ge­nu­ity, be­gan to deny the cit­i­zens of the 20th cen­tury me­trop­o­lis cer­tain rites of pas­sage: driv­ing in from the sub­urbs, we no longer greeted the day to the smell of freshly baked bread drift­ing from the cor­ner bak­ery. The ro­mance of the past – stolen glances across a sta­tion plat­form and over­heard in­ti­ma­cies be­tween lovers – has all but dis­ap­peared, to some ex­tent rob­bing us of our con­nec­tion with one an­other.

Drawn to the al­lure of a more pedes­trian life, I grav­i­tated to the an­ti­quated streets of Europe, where I lin­gered for many years. And when I did even­tu­ally re­turn home, I chose Cape Town, South Africa’s old­est city. Sel­dom, dur­ing this time, did my mind wan­der to the city of gold, and so, I didn’t re­alise just how much it was chang­ing.

I re­turned for the first time, more than a decade later, for busi­ness. Mid-morn­ing, as the plane touched down at O.R. Tambo, I was over­come by an un­ex­pected flurry of ex­cite­ment. Mak­ing my way to the Gau­train plat­form – just as I had done on stranger shores – it be­came im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent to me that some­thing in Jozi’s fi­bre had shifted. I had re­turned to a city lib­er­ated by an air of op­ti­mism. Hyp­no­tised by the re­flec­tions in the win­dows of the ar­riv­ing car­riages – like al­ter­nate re­al­i­ties flit­ting by, dar­ing me to ex­plore what might have been – I felt an old fa­mil­iar stir­ring of pos­si­bil­ity.

Unen­cum­bered by the con­cept of traf­fic, and with nowhere to be un­til that evening, I de­cided to let the Gau­train guide me. At Sand­ton Sta­tion, I felt like I had ar­rived in a new place where, oddly, the voices around me seemed so fa­mil­iar. To my left, two colour­ful women dis­cussed their lunch plans in An­glo-xhosa. To my right, my eye caught that of an up­right gentle­man – im­mac­u­lately dressed in a style rem­i­nis­cent of the jazz age. Jo’burg had been rev­o­lu­tionised by an over­whelm­ing sense of pride. I wanted more.

Emerg­ing from the depths of Park Sta­tion to the hus­tle and bus­tle of down­town, it was hard to be­lieve that the jour­ney from the air­port took only half an hour. De­spite the ex­hil­a­ra­tion I felt at my im­mi­nent ad­ven­ture, I did an in­stinc­tive, sub­tle sweep of my pock­ets – a re­minder that, no mat­ter where you find your­self in this world, the taste of elec­tric­ity in the air also sig­nals a warn­ing. All there, I as­sured my­self.

With­out think­ing, I hopped onto the Gau­train bus bound for the Stan­dard Bank Art Gallery, where I re­mem­bered at­tend­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion of the largest col­lec­tion of Pi­cas­sos I had ever seen, years ago. What ex­actly was I seek­ing, I won­dered?

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